Golf. Oscar. Alpha. Tango. Believe In The Shield! (CPR Productions)
Jun 3, 2014 - 6:12:17 PM
The Shield are the greatest faction in pro-wrestling history.
I am sure there are plenty of you that will agree with me. I am sure that there are a lot of you who don’t as well. After all, we are talking about some seriously iconic competition. The Four Horsemen. The NWO. Degeneration X. Evolution. The Nation of Domination. The Brood… okay, maybe not The Brood. All of these legendary stables have created history, have created megastars, have created moments that define pro-wrestling, yet I still hold Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins above them all. As we all go through the seven stages of grief following the architect of the group turning on his partners, it is the perfect time to take a look back at the journey they have taken to arrive at this point.
18 November 2012 - Ryback was wrestling’s biggest phenomenon, CM Punk was a record breaking heel champion, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose were indie darlings who were in NXT and I thought Leakee was something that happened to a broken tap. That evening saw the debut of the Shield as they came out to ensure that Punk retained his WWE Championship against Ryback. The IWC were immediately smitten, despite mumblings that Kassius Ohno should have been in the Reigns role. They would go on to reveal their names and their M.O. on television and they would make their in-ring debut at the next PPV, TLC. It was a night that proved these guys were the real deal between the ropes. It was a night that knocked any doubts over Reigns firmly on the head. It was a night that started a streak of wins and an even longer streak of quality matches.
They would go on a tear over the next few months. They would defeat numerous combinations of the top babyface wrestlers on PPV. They would defeat numerous combinations of midcard babyface wrestlers on TV. They would take out the biggest names in the history of the business, all in the name of justice. It would be revealed during this time that they had initially been paid off by Heyman to save Punk’s title on debut. By the time the build to Extreme Rules was underway, they had basically done everything possible as a heel team. They had even tangled with The Undertaker on television following Mania, the night after I got to see them live for the first time at a house show.
At Extreme Rules they branched out with Ambrose becoming US Champion whilst Rollins and Reigns became Tag Team Champions (ending a lengthy and exciting reign by Team Hell No). The gold suited them but it marked a bit of a slump for the group. They lost their undefeated six man streak in a not very high profile match on Smackdown. They dropped down the card and they really needed a jolt to help them pick up momentum. That came at SummerSlam with the birth of The Authority. The Shield became the muscle for Triple H and regained a raison d’etre that had been missing for a couple of months. They were for Hunter what Bossman was for Vince in the Corporation, even down to the clothes… except better but Rollins and Reigns would drop their titles in an exciting feud with the Rhodes Brothers.
It was the dropping of the belts which marked a new chapter in their story. For the first time since their debut, signs of dissention started to creep in. Ambrose was the only one holding gold and it began to cause a little friction as the group found themselves up against two big face internet darlings. I got to see them for a second time, at Raw in Manchester as they wrestled the team of Daniel Bryan and CM Punk in the main event, a match that sowed early seeds in a rivalry against a new three man team on the block. Roman Reigns would have a huge break out night at Survivor Series, becoming the sole survivor for his team and eliminating four of his opponents before The Shield would focus in on Punk. A master of manipulation, he would pick away at the dissention within the group and it would lead to him defeating them in a handicap match at TLC.
The writing seemed to be on the wall. The break up was coming and the Royal Rumble seemed to be the place it would happen. The muscle of the group would shine again in the rumble match, breaking the record for eliminations in a single rumble, a number which including both his stablemates. A triple threat seemed a lock for Mania with Extreme Rules seemingly the best place for them to put over that threesome they had crossed paths with in England. The Shield vs The Wyatt Family stole the show and the crowd went nuts for the Hounds of Justice. A lot of people were sceptical about the group turning face but that is just what happened. Just when it seemed the split was all but made, an excellent “clear the air” summit turned them back on the same page. With their focus once again on following their own agenda, they became unmanageable for the Director of Operations, Kane. The turn, a feud and a Mania squash followed but things soon went over Corporate Kane’s head to the COO.
I am sure the Evolution-Shield feud is fresh in everybody’s minds. It proved they could work as a face team and proved all three members were worthy top of the card stars in the making. Monday night marked the final act for the Shield as the original trio with one swift chairshot to the back of Roman Reigns. Sure the group might carry on with a new member or as a duo but it will mark a totally different era for the group, one I am sure most people won’t want to see under the Shield name. The history tells the story of an exciting group but I know that history alone won’t back up my claim that the Hounds are the greatest faction ever.
Defining a Genre
I have been watching the WWF for a long time. I have seen a lot of great superstars, teams and stables come and go. I have seen a lot of new concepts be built and taken to new levels. If there was one thing that I never really took to as a fan, it was multiman tags that weren’t contested under elimination rules. The biggest problem was that forever every Canadian Stampede, there were one hundred throw away, lazily booked encounters that did nothing more than fit a load of people onto a card. Before December 2012 you could have counted the number of six man tags I liked on one hand and still used it to send a text message. You could do the same with Shield six man tags I haven’t enjoyed.
What I am saying here is that The Hounds of Justice have totally reinvented the six man tag. They made them important. They made them exciting. It is something that their opponents have all taken to like ducks to water. The system seems to be a very simple one that works every single time. It doesn’t matter who they are facing. It’s one that the Wyatt Family have seemingly slotted into just nicely in six man tags of their own. People often point to great workers as being able to get a good match out of a broom. Well The Shield could get a good six man out of any three things you could find in a cleaning closet. Let’s just have a look at their PPV six man matches.
TLC 2012 - defeated Ryback & Hell No
Elimination Chamber 2013 - defeated John Cena, Ryback & Sheamus
WrestleMania 29 - defeated The Big Show, Sheamus and Randy Orton
Elimination Chamber 2014 - lost to The Wyatt Family
WrestleMania 30 - defeated Kane & The New Age Outlaws
Extreme Rules 2014 - defeated Evolution
Payback 2014 - defeated Evolution
Seven matches, six of which were excellent with the exception being the Mania squash, which was as good as it could have been in the time. They also wrestled as a team at Survivor Series and TLC last year in matches that were also very very strong. And that is not including so many brilliant TV matches that I can’t even count them. There were three more matches against the Wyatts, there was that encounter with Hell No and Taker (or Brothers of Destruction and Bryan if you prefer), there was a seemingly endless supply against Usos +1 during a time where the quality of TV matches was at an all time high. As far as I am concerned, no other faction can touch them when it comes to the amount of quality matches they wrestled as a group. Hell, I’d go as far as saying that it isn’t even close. Simply put, The Shield were an untouchable cohesive unit. Sure they had some great moments in singles and regular tag action too but not anywhere near as consistency. Which brings me to my second reason I believe they are the best group ever.
The Perfect Machine
The greatest strength of the Shield was that there was nothing they didn’t excel at. There is no wrestler in history who could do everything but between them, Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns pretty much had every single base covered. And they knew exactly how to enhance their strengths and mask their weaknesses. You could see straight away what they all brought to the table. Reigns had the look and he had the power,. He had superstar written all over him and if you don’t see that he is the future of the company, I have a Specsavers coupon for you. Ambrose clearly had command of character work. Whilst it was a little too over the top for my taste at times, it was also obvious he oozed talent and showmanship. Rollins was a workhorse who had the traits of all those exciting high flyers who came before him.
In using their strengths for the good of the team, they got better and better. They begun to add things. Roman developed a CV of hard hitting signature moves that really stood out. Dean’s unorthodox style begun to click more and more with the WWE style. Seth’s athleticism incorporated moves that impressed when on the attack rather than just used for bumping. More impressively however, their perceived weak areas improved too. Right now you’d have no worries whatsoever about any of them having to carry a promo. I think all three are in a much stronger position for a potential main event singles career right now than they were at the start of the year too. That doesn’t mean I think any are the finished article just yet however. I have every confidence all three men will be a huge success on their own but it is only natural they will feel the hit of not having each other to lean on in the short term. Now the key to many of the great factions in wrestling history is a blend of styles and talents but, again, I don’t think any utilised this as often or as well as The Hounds. Which leads me onto my third and final point.
The Group Over The Individual
Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose really shouldn’t be friends. I just looked at how they all have different strengths and personality wise they seem to be coming from totally different places. Whilst Paula Abdul and a cartoon cat once told me that opposites attract, our brains tend to tell us the exact… well… opposite! Individualism leads to different agendas which leads to the break up of almost every faction in history (some time and time again). For over a year and a half, the individualism of Roman, Dean and Seth never overpowered their goals as a group. Sure, there were times where it got pretty close in the first few months of this year but they always found their way back on the same page. I don’t think you could say that there were no egos in the group. On the contrary, I think all three men had shown that they had massive egos at times, but it was never bigger than their collective ego. Well, it wasn’t until Monday.
We are bound to get a motive for Rollins’ actions on Raw over the next few weeks and I am sure it won’t be too far removed from the reasons most factions fall, but I believe that until that moment, they had more dedication to their group that they other great stables. I think that was in large part to the fact that there was no leader of The Shield. Whenever the need called for one of them to step up, they did. All three men have served as de facto leader at different times but at no time did any of them assume the role and laud it over the others. When Ambrose seemed as if he was trying too, it was quickly nipped in the bud. The leader using the other members to push his own agenda was is an all too common trait in stables but one that The Shield never had to worry about and one that never took focus from what they were doing in the ring.
The uniform they have been wearing for the last year and a half makes them stand out from the pack too. Once again this is proof that the group is bigger than the individual. Their entrance is something else that puts them on a different level. Alone or together, they always take that trip through the crowd and whilst they didn’t always walk side by side, they always walked to the beat of the same drum. It’s this belief in their cause, it’s that cohesiveness, it’s that blend of styles of three men with exceptional talent which allowed them to come out week after week, month after month and totally captivate the audience in a way that no other group has for me. And that is why I believe that The Shield is the greatest faction of all time.
But that is over now. If you don’t quite buy into my argument, it can’t be denied that we have at very least witnessed the end of one of the greatest groups in wrestling history. It’s been one hell of a ride and whilst I can understand people being upset by the split, I think that the second victory over Evolution was the highest of high points possible for them to reach as a group. In terms of protecting their legacy it may well have been the absolute perfect time to end things. But there is still at least one more chapter in the story of The Shield. We’ve only read the first paragraph of the break-up and, as I have been with almost every part of their story since Survivor Series 2012, I am thoroughly intrigued. There are lots of ideas floating around and a lot of negativity but The Hounds have been booked (or have made the booking work) almost perfectly at every turn so far. Why would I start to doubt them now? After all I do, and always will, believe in The Shield.
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